ISO Buyers Guide

 ISO 14000


 Effortless QS-9000


 News Digest

 Quality Mgmt.

 One Minute Mgr.

 Quality Standards

 Philip Crosby

 Gage Guide

 SPC Toolkit

 Book Reviews

 Quality Software

 May 1997 Article

QS-9000: An Executive Overview

by Max E. Zent

Eventually, business and growth in stockholder
value will go to those who have developed effective
quality systems with provisions for continuous improvement.

First issued in August 1994, Quality System Requirements QS-9000 defines the fundamental quality system expectations of Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, participating truck manufacturers and other subscribing companies for internal and external suppliers of production and service parts and materials.

QS-9000 was developed by the Chrysler/Ford/General Motors Supplier Quality Requirements Task Force, with a lot of help from various support groups such as the Automotive Industry Action Group, the Supplier Advisory Council and the International Organization for Standardization.

Previously, each company developed their own expectations for supplier quality systems and the corresponding assessment documents. Thus, QS-9000 is a harmonization of Chrysler's Supplier Quality Assurance Manual, Ford's Q-101 Quality System Standard and GM's North American Operations Targets for Excellence, with input from truck manufacturers. QS-9000 supersedes all of these documents and GM Europe's General Quality Standard for Purchased Materials.

Applicability and deadlines

QS-9000 applies worldwide to all internal and external suppliers of production and service parts and materials to the Big Three and to participating truck manufacturers. Requirements vary among the Big Three. Chrysler requires all tier-one suppliers to be registered by July 31, 1997. GM requires registration by December 31, 1997. Both Chrysler and GM require third-party registration. At this time, Ford does not require third-party registration. Instead, Ford has stated that its suppliers must be in compliance. Ford has threatened that there will be stiff penalties if a supplier claims to be in compliance but then fails an audit conducted by Ford.

Given the approaching deadlines, the level of effort required and the fact that registrars have backlogs of business, it will be virtually impossible for all tier-one suppliers to meet the stated deadlines. This causes speculation that the Big Three may offer some tolerance on meeting these dates, but any supplier who has not responded appropriately to these requirements and deadlines is risking losing business.

In order to qualify as a new supplier to the Big Three, the supplier must first be compliant with QS-9000. Therefore, those companies that may be serving only the aftermarket now but who have a strategic intent to move into the OEM business are advised to become registered.

Third-party registrars

QS-9000 registrars must be accredited by a Big Three recognized accreditation body. Registrars cannot serve as consultants.

As of April 1997, a total of 1,288 companies were registered to QS-9000 worldwide; 1,162 within North America, according to the QS-9000 directory published by the American Society for Quality Control. The numbers were somewhat understated because there is lag time between successful assessment by some registrars and when they report the registration to ASQC. For example, some companies passed the registration assessment in December 1996 but were not included in that publication of the directory, which had a cut-off date of March 15, 1997.

Also, the word "company" is misleading. Companies with multiple plant sites usually opt to gain registration separately at each site. For example, the ASQC directory lists Delphi Packard Electric Systems 51 times, with 28 registrations at sites in Mexico, 16 in Ohio, one in Michigan and four in Massachusetts. Thus, what some may perceive as "one company" is treated in the directory as 51 companies.

There are 570 registered companies listed in the April directory that did not appear in the January issue, suggesting a current, new registration rate of nearly 200 per month. The number of registered companies outside North America has almost doubled in this last quarter.

Relationship to ISO 9000

QS-9000 requirements divide into three sections, the first of which is based on the ISO 9001 standard.

Section I: ISO 9000-Based Requirements. This section is the most comprehensive of the three sections and contains the overall architecture for the quality system. The architecture is precisely the same as in ISO 9001. That is, it groups all requirements into one of 20 subsets called elements. Every element and every word of ISO 9001 is repeated. However, other requirements, agreed to by the Big Three, are added to each element, expanding this section by about 50 percent more than ISO 9001. Thus, although Section I is "based" on ISO 9001, it goes deeper into each of the 20 elements and is significantly more demanding. See the sidebar on page 68 for an identification of the 20 elements.

Section II: Sector-Specific Requirements. This section describes requirements on three topics that are not in ISO 9001:

    1. -- Production Part Approval Process -- verifies that production changes produce acceptable products and are acceptable to their customers.

    2. -- Continuous Improvement -- a fundamental tenet of QS-9000 aimed at opportunities for improvement in quality, delivery and cost.

    3. -- Manufacturing Capabilities -- for examination and ongoing control of the manufacturing facilities, planning processes, tool design and fabrication, and tooling management. In effect, by adding Section II, the elements are expanded from 20 to 23.


Section III: Customer-Specific Requirements. This section provides requirements that are unique to either Chrysler, Ford, GM or the truck manufacturers.


Comparing QS-9000 with ISO 9000

There are very significant differences in QS-9000 compared with ISO 9001. They include:

 QS-9000 is much more prescriptive. ISO 9001 describes what must be done, but there is flexibility in how you do it. By contrast, QS-9000 often states how something must be done.

 To satisfy QS-9000, suppliers must be able to demonstrate that their quality system is, indeed, effective. You must keep quality records of gains accomplished while developing and implementing the QS-9000 requirements because the registrar will insist on proof of gains as a condition for registration.

Contrary to a logical assumption, being ISO 9000 registered does not attest to the quality of your products nor to the effectiveness of your procedures. The core requirements to gain an ISO 9000 registration is that you document what you do and you demonstrate to the registrar that you are doing what you have documented.

Some companies foolishly approach ISO 9000 as an exercise in documentation, failing to see the business improvement opportunity that a legitimate project offers. In the end, they gain nothing but a claim that they are registered. What's worse, they have locked themselves into current procedures, many of which may be neither efficient nor effective.

 QS-9000 requires suppliers to manage and develop their supply base. For example, they shall require 100-percent on-time delivery performance from their subcontractors, and they must have a system for monitoring their delivery performance, including tracking premium or excessive freight. You must perform subcontractor quality system development using sections I and II of QS-9000 as a fundamental quality system requirement.

 QS-9000 requires suppliers to establish and document an inventory management system to continuously optimize inventory turns over time, assure stock rotation and minimize inventory levels.

 QS-9000 requires suppliers to have a documented process for determining customer satisfaction.

 For key process equipment, QS-9000 requires a preventive maintenance plan, including predictive maintenance methods.

 There must be provisions for a continuous improvement system. Suppliers must demonstrate knowledge of various measures and techniques for continuous improvement, and they shall use those that are appropriate, such as: cost of quality, design of experiments, value analysis and benchmarking.

These and other differences -- far too many to list here -- make QS-9000 far more difficult, rigorous and demanding to implement than ISO 9000. The good news is that it is such a superb template for running a business, that companies would be well-advised to gain compliance with it, regardless of whether a customer requires it. Approached properly, companies can make big gains in both the market side and the cost side of their business.

Observed trends in quality systems

At the present, the QS-9000 requirements are imposed on tier-one suppliers only. But, with the specific requirement to develop their tier-two suppliers, it's only a matter of time until we see the requirements being directly or indirectly imposed throughout the industry's customer supply chain.

The government has dropped quality specifications like MIL-Q-9858A, which it has used for years to control suppliers, in favor of ISO 9000.

As in the automotive industry, other industries are using ISO 9000 as a base, then adding supplements to develop their own industry-specific quality standards. For example, the aerospace industry has just released a new standard, ASE ARD9000, that mirrors the general architecture and intent of QS-9000. It defines the fundamental quality system expectations of the government, Boeing and other major airframe companies for internal and external suppliers of production and service parts and materials.

All suppliers of production and service parts and materials, for any major industry, will be wise to take heed. Eventually, business and growth in stockholder value will go to those who have developed effective quality systems with provisions for continuous improvement. Others will disappear, or be so far down the supply chain that they will be of little consequence.

About the author

Max E. Zent is a principal and senior consultant of Integrated Productivity and Quality Systems.

© 1997 Max E. Zent. All rights reserved.


Back to Top





[Current Issue]

[ISO 9000 Database]

[Daily News]

[Past Issues]

[Quality Links]

[About Us]

[Media Kit]

[To Subscribe]


Copyright 1997 QCI International. All rights reserved. Quality Digest can be reached by phone at (916) 893-4095.


e-mail Quality Digest


Please contact our Webmaster with questions or comments.